By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A.J. Holland played high school baseball at Holy Spirit High School in Absecon, New Jersey and then spent his college years on Hawk Hill throwing for St. Joe’s. Back in 2011, he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 16th round, and since then he has steadily worked his way through the Atlanta farm system. He has spent this season as a member of the High Class-A Lynchburg (Virginia) Hillcats’ starting rotation.

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“I feel pretty solid,” Holland said prior to Sunday’s game in Wilmington, Delaware, against the Blue Rocks. “The idea with this game is you never stop learning. I feel like as long as you take advantage of every day and you get better, that’s the idea of it. Just basically trying to help yourself out to excel to the next level.”

A 6’5″, 23-year-old right-handed pitcher, Holland has made 17 starts for the Hillcats this season, going 4-5 with a 4.52 ERA. He’s done a great job this season, and throughout his pro career, of keeping the ball in the ballpark. In 214 1/3 innings as a pro, Holland has allowed just 12 home runs (5 this season). He actually threw one of his best games of 2013 Saturday against Wilmington, pitching six innings of one-hit, shutout, ball in a game Lynchburg eventually lost 2-1 in 11 innings.

A.J. Holland (credit: John Mitchell)

A.J. Holland (credit: John Mitchell)

“Feeling pretty confidant with all the pitches so far,” Holland says. “I feel like, for me especially, I’m a fastball dominant pitcher, so all my secondary pitches (change-up, curveball, slider), work off of my fastball. Whenever there’s a game where I’m commanding my fastball, it just makes it that much easier for me to have a successful game.”

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Holland threw nearly 140 innings during his time with St. Joe’s but didn’t put together the eye-popping numbers that a lot of college pitchers who get drafted do. But he says his time as a Hawk was well-spent.

“I didn’t have the most successful career at St. Joe’s,” Holland says. “But for me I felt that was a huge learning experience. Especially when you have rough outings like I did at St. Joe’s, what it helps build is short-term memory and helps you to deal with failure. Biggest thing in this game, you gotta have a short-term memory, you gotta learn to deal with failure because baseball’s a game based off failure.”

Most importantly, Holland says he is still having a blast playing the game.

“Absolutely,” Holland says. “I’m just blessed for the opportunity to be able to come out here, enjoy the beautiful weather and play the game I’ve always wanted to play.”

You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.

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